The state of Idaho has found a concrete way to recognize Vietnam War veterans in a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin incident.
On Tuesday, the state officially declared Interstate 84 in Idaho as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway.
“It goes further than a thank you. This really is an act of appreciation,” said Capt. Henry Parker, commander of the Idaho Department of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
Parker and his organization were leading advocates who persuaded Idaho state lawmakers to approve the designation earlier this year.
The Idaho stretch of I-84 connects to the Oregon portion of the route, which was given the same commemorative name last Memorial Day for the stretch running from Idaho to Portland.
In Washington, a section of scenic highway along the Strait of Juan de Fuca northwest of Seattle was designated in 2007 to honor Korean War veterans, and another section in 2008 as the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial Highway.
In Idaho, the Purple Heart organization was instrumental in having Interstate 90 through North Idaho designated as the Purple Heart Trail a number of years ago. The Purple Heart is the medal given to military members wounded in battle.
Parker said his group raised $3,800 to erect four freeway signs marking the I-84 veterans highway. The signs were designed by Ethan Griffiths of the Idaho Transportation Department and show the state of Idaho in an American flag motif. The group is seeking additional donations to pay for more signs.
“It really catches your attention when you see it,” Parker said of the signs. “We are the envy of the rest of the nation.”
Parker, 69, served as an Army artillery captain in Vietnam and was wounded in an attack on his position in 1969. He bears scars from those injuries, he said.
On Aug. 7, 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which opened the way for President Lyndon Johnson to send conventional troops into the simmering Vietnam conflict. The resolution followed a sea skirmish in the gulf between the U.S. and North Vietnam.
Steve Grant, a spokesman for ITD, said the signs marking the Vietnam veterans highway went up on July 1.
A ceremony marking the designation was held on the steps of the state Capitol in Boise on Tuesday.
“I think people are really pleased that a long overdue acknowledgement for the sacrifices of these soldiers has taken place,” Grant said.
To donate money for the signs or for more information, contact Parker at (208) 853-1544.
Kelly Ferry fixed, returned to service
The Keller Ferry, shut down last week due to steering problems, is back up and running following repairs and Coast Guard approval. The MV Sanpoil went into service a year ago and carries vehicles and passengers across Lake Roosevelt on the Columbia River north of Wilbur on state Highway 21.
Highway work will close Hayford Road
Repaving on U.S. Highway 2 in the vicinity of Airway Heights will force closure of Hayford Road starting at 7 p.m. and running through about 6 a.m. Tuesday.
Grinding and paving of the highway will continue through those hours.
The same hours are being used for repaving of I-90 from Barker Road to Stateline and U.S. 2 from Chattaroy Hills to the Pend Oreille County line.
Asphalt pavement patching is planned on U.S. 2 today and Tuesday from Mount Spokane Park Drive to Colbert Road.
Ongoing projects around Spokane
In Spokane, the Gleason Fest in downtown Spokane will cause the closure of Main Avenue from Division to Pine streets on Saturday from 8 a.m. to midnight.
A sidewalk project at Hamblen Elementary School will create some disruption for traffic.
Lincoln and Monroe streets from Seventh to 17th avenues are closed for reconstruction. Work is expected to last until mid-October.
High Drive from 29th Avenue to Bernard Street will remain closed for construction through mid-October.
Grand Boulevard, another key South Hill route, is seeing traffic restrictions due to repaving.
Francis Avenue from Division to Crestline streets remains under construction but open to traffic.
Arthur Street at Second Avenue is open, but work continues on sidewalks, curb ramps and lighting.
Work on Appleway restricting lanes
In Spokane Valley, Appleway Boulevard from Thierman to Park roads has lane restrictions for paving, sidewalk work and stormwater installations.
Paving continues on Sprague Avenue from Vista to Herald roads.
Eighth Avenue from McKinnon to Fancher roads will be closed starting Tuesday to all but local traffic for repaving and stormwater installations. The project will run for about a month.
DUI campaign underway in area
The Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over enforcement campaign started on Saturday and will continue through Labor Day.
Extra enforcement patrols will be watching for impaired drivers in Spokane, Whitman, Pend Oreille and Ferry counties under the program sponsored by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.